Essay about Mathematical Ethics

4160 Words 17 Pages
Mathematical Ethics

Philosophers since antiquity have argued the merits of mathematics as a normative aid in ethical decision-making and of the mathematization of ethics a theoretical discipline. Recently, Anagnostopoulos, Annas, Broadie and Hutchinson have probed such issues said to be of interest to Aristotle. Despite their studies, the sense in which Aristotle either opposed or proposed a mathematical ethics in subject-matter and method remains unclear. This paper attempts to clarify the matter. It shows Aristotle’s matrix of exactness and inexactness for ethical subject-matter and ethical method in the Nicomachean Ethics. Then it probes a resultant puzzle from the matrix, namely, the HL model of the happy life without consideration
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Some have argued in principle against formal moral thermometry; others have posed practical difficulties. Mill's critique of Bentham's moral thermometry calculus is well-known and widely accepted. Recently, MacIntyre has argued for a return to Aristotelian virtue ethics from the modern metaethical impulse to mathematize ethics, not fully cognizant of Aristotle's own flirtations with mathematical ethics. (5) Jonsen and Toulmin have complained about "overintellectualism" in normative ethical theory, targeting Sidgwick's arguments for a scientific ethics. (6) This dispute about mathematical ethics has its roots in antiquity with Aristotle. While some contemporary proponents gloat over the mathematization of some of Aristotle's practical wisdom in his Economics and Politics in such fields as microeconomics, macroeconomics, and political econometrics, the received view is that Aristotle himself opposed mathematical ethics in his Nicomachean Ethics. But did he? (7)

Scholars have recently clarified Aristotle's concerns about mathematical ethics often expressed as the problem of formal exactness (akribeia) and of material inexactness (tupos). Georgios Anagnostopoulos has meticulously examined the issue of exactness and has concluded that Aristotle is inconsistent in his views, sometimes affirming and sometimes denying the inevitability of inexactness in ethical subject matter. (8) However, by assuming the parity of all virtues for Aristotle and by overlooking an…